Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act Of 2009
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, we all agree that every violent crime is deplorable, despicable, regardless of its motivation and regardless of who the victim is. However, this bill, no matter how well-intended, undermines basic principles of our criminal justice system and raises significant constitutional and federalism concerns.
Under the provisions of H.R. 1913, justice will no longer be equal but will depend on the race, sex, sexual orientation, disability or other protected status of the victim. In my view, all victims should have equal worth in the eyes of the law.
Why should other groups like senior citizens, veterans, children and pregnant women not also receive the added protections under this bill?
The distinguished majority leader says that this is not about thought crime; it's about conduct. But the fact of the matter is that the identical crime, be it a murder, a rape, an assault, a battery, whatever it might be, conducted against one of the protected classes will receive additional penalties, compared to that pregnant woman or senior citizen or veteran or child, simply based upon the thought process of the perpetrator of the crime. Every victim is entitled to the same fair treatment under the law.
This will have a chilling effect on citizens' willingness to speak freely, as citizens will adapt to a new world where the Federal Government can use any unpopular statements they make against them in the future.
The bill raises the real possibility that religious leaders or members of religious groups could be criminally prosecuted based on their speech or protected activities. No one should be put in fear that their constitutionally protected free speech about controversial issues will be subject to efforts by prosecutors attempting to link that speech to violent action taken by others.
There is no evidence that States are not fully prosecuting violent crimes involving hate. In fact, 45 States and the District of Columbia already have specific laws punishing hate crimes.
I abhor acts of violence against any citizen, including crimes motivated by bias against certain groups, and I believe that such crimes should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. However, this legislation gives special preferences to certain classes of citizens and would create a chilling effect on one of our most cherished constitutional rights.
I urge my colleagues to reject this legislation.